When I was nine years old, my younger brother went to sign-up day for rugby, but there were no girls’ teams, so I played hockey that year. And I thought, “Damn, that is really sad,” says Sarah Hirini. “But a lot has changed since then,” she adds, understating the pivotal role she’s played in elevating the sport for women, not just in New Zealand but globally.
Hirini, now 29, has had a 10-year rugby career that is dizzying in its vertical climb over such a short time. (More on time, her relationship with it, and her ambassadorship with Swiss luxury watch brand Tudor shortly—but first, a glimpse into Hirini’s impressive accomplishments.) During Hirini’s time as captain of the Black Ferns Sevens, they’ve brought home the silver medal from the 2016 Olympics in Rio and the gold medal from the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, won Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2013 and 2018, and won the World Series six times.
Tudor’s catchphrase, Born to Dare, makes it the perfect brand for Hirini to team up with, as she’s clearly a confident, highly skilled professional athlete that does not need the term female used before rugby star. “I think I was born to try something different,” she says. “Our team dares to be the greatest in the world. In Sevens, you have to dare to have courage, to put your hand up when times are tough, and know that you have support in that. It makes me feel very proud to be an ambassador for the company.”
Hirini’s relationship with time has evolved with her career, and as she enters her 30s, “I know where to utilize my time with my family, and spend time when I am not at rugby, or at Sevens,” she laughs. “But when we’re playing and you’e got 14 minutes, that goes very quickly. My relationship with time is quite a cool one, quite a balanced one.”
Tudor’s Black Bay Ceramic is her go-to from the collection, an all-black watch that combines a tech-sport aesthetic with the all-out luxury that this sub-brand of Rolex is known for. The style suits “everything I do, and comes with a couple different straps, and the leather one looks nice when I dress up,” Hirini says. “Because it’s my first watch from Tudor, I wanted to be able to wear it with everything.”
Hirini’s partnership with Tudor was an easy decision for her. “Just seeing the amount of work they have done for women’s rugby, I feel the excitement and the passion they have for the sport and for women, and how much they want to give. At times, we as women aren’t as sought-after as the men’s program, and Tudor has constantly helped us women along the way for many years.”
With her goal to “change the stereotypical mindset that rugby is a men’s sport,” Hirini often visits schools to chat with young students. “Encouraging girls to see rugby as a pathway, as a career opportunity, it’s a real cool challenge.
“I love the thrill of being part of one of the most difficult sports in the world,” she says, adding that “playing six games in two days, with each game only 14 minutes long with a minuscule margin for error” is pretty intense. But it seems Hirini wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photos courtesy of Tudor.